***Note spoilers ahead***
You may remember the Disney animated masterpiece Hercules released in 1997 by Disney. The story of the son of a Greek god who was snatched as a baby by Hades and forced to live among mortals as a demigod. He is thought to be a youthful mortal with the odd ability to lift anything up to one-hundred times his size. Once a teenager, he must prove himself worthy of living with the gods on Mt. Olympus.
What you may not know is that this 1997 film should have been called, Heracles. Hercules in mythology was a Roman hero and god. He is held in comparison to the Greek god Heracles. who is sought as a divine hero and son of Zeus and mortal Alcmene.
However, the animated cartoon was in sync with mythology when they depicted Hercules as being strong and longing for adventure. In Greek mythology, Hercules’ adventures became canonical and known as, The Twelve Labors. The Twelve Labors included, slaying the Nemean lion, slaying the nine-headed Hydra, and capturing the Golden Hind of Artemis.
Other labors were capturing the Erymanthian bear, cleaning the Augean stables in a single day, slaying the Stymphalian birds, capturing the Cretan bull, stealing the Mares of Diomedes, obtaining the girdle of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, obtaining the cattle of the monster Geryon. Steal the apples of Hesperides, and finally capturing and bringing back Cerberus.
The True story of Heracles.
The story of Hercules’ mother and father, Zeus and Hera, was a different story in the original ancient Greek mythology. Zeus had disguised himself as mortal Alcemene’s husband, Amphitryon, and visited Alcmene one night in her bed before her real husband returned from the war, so Hercules was born a demi-god and had incredible strength and stamina.
However, from birth his life was wrought with difficulties, namely due to Zeus’s wife, the goddess, Hera. She knew that her husband, Zeus, had an illegitimate son and sought to destroy him. His difficulties with relationships and others was because of her. Hera had tricked the Goddess of childbirth Lithyia to prevent the birth of Hercules, only to br tricked by a nursemaid and then, she sent serpents to kill him in his cradle, but Hercules strangled them both.
A man may be destroyed, but not defeated.
In the Disney adaptation Hercules, our main protagonist is faced with many adventures and fights, such as fighting The Hydra. The Hydra is summoned by Hades after Megara arrives and states that two young boys are trapped in a gorge. Hercules saves them, unaware that they are Hades’ minions named Pain and Panic.
Hades summons the Hydra and Hercules is forced to save the town and himself from the beast. When Hercules wins, he is celebrated as a hero. However, even though he is a hero amongst the citizens in his village, his father Zeus, is not convinced he is a true hero yet.
Hades, Meg, and Hercules:
Hercules meets Meg and it is another Disney version of love at first sight for our protagonist, Hercules. However, in this love story, Meg has sold her soul to Hades to revive a lover of hers who had died. She accepted Hades offer that she will serve him forever. Shortly after her lover was revived, he fell in love with another and ungratefully left Meg locked in servitude to Hades.
When Hades unleashes the Titans, and a Cyclops travels to Thebes to kill Hercules, even though Hercules defeats the Cyclops, Meg is mortally injured by a falling pillar and ends up dying. Earlier, Hercules accepted Hades offer that Meg would not be harmed if Hercules lost his strength. When Meg dies, Hercules regains his strength but before he can get to her she dies and returns to Hades.
Sacrifice is Godly.
Hercules breaks into the Underworld after Meg dies and offers himself in exchange for Meg’s freedom from the river Styx. Hercules is thrown into Styx, as the river begins to drain him of life when his immortality saves him and he is granted “godhood.”
He rescues Meg and punches Hades into the River of Styx. Later, Hercules and Meg are summoned to Mount Olympus, where his mother and father, Zeus and Hera welcome him home.
I have watched the Disney animated film adaptation of Hercules (1997) over twenty times since it was released. It is fast-paced, witty, rememberable plot, and filled with catchy music. However, I feel our main protagonist is over shadowed by the sarcastic and fiery antagonist, Hades.
If it wasn’t for the humor-filled, mortal relatable love Hercules has for Meg, I don’t believe I would have been drawn to the Hercules character himself. Although, this is my opinion and I always, always root for the bad guy. (Scar all the way.) I believe Hercules deserves a nine out of ten rating and will always be a warm-hearted and loved childhood movie to remember.
Furthermore, while I will always root for the beloved villain of the story. I still admire Disney’s ability to honor the authenticity of the Greek mythology. Proving that even mortals can overcome adversity and defeat the odds to become a hero.
May Your Stories Be Written in the Stars,
-The Cursed Author